Mexico Benefits From California’s Delayed Strawberry Season
USDA data shows that between 2018 and 2022, Central California strawberry production volumes have remained stable. However, in 2021, the timing of the peak harvest shifted from May to June.
According to the California Strawberry Growers Association (CFFA), the delay in peak harvest is attributable to several factors, including weather, labor availability, and the planting of shorter-ripening strawberry varieties.
Although this change in seasonality has generated uncertainty among US growers, it has benefited Mexican growers and exporters.
Mexico wins, and Florida loses
Before 2021, most of Mexico’s strawberry exports to the US occurred in January and February. However, since 2021, the peak season for strawberry production has extended to March and April, which allows for increased sales to the US market.
This extended export window puts Mexican strawberries into direct competition with Florida strawberry growers.
The current situation also meant that in 2021 and 2022, the end of the peak export season by Mexico coincided with a high volume of strawberry production in Central California, creating a perfect overlap between the two regions and ensuring a steady supply of strawberries to the market.
Extreme weather impacts California harvest
Unfortunately, adverse weather conditions in California at the start of 2023 delayed strawberry production, meaning there will be no overlap in seasonality.
According to the California Strawberry Commission, strawberry production in the state will decrease by 7% compared to the previous season due to factors such
as drought and late frosts, which could lead to higher strawberry prices in the US market and increased demand for Mexican imports to cover the shortfall.
According to USDA data, through April 28, Central California’s volume was just 30.23 million pounds, while in 2022, for the same month, it was 122.54 million pounds, a 75.3% decrease. Of course, it is expected that in the following months, this production shortfall will recover to some extent.
Will Mexican strawberry prices increase?
Supply shortages in California could lead to higher prices for Mexican strawberries in the following weeks, benefiting growers and exporters. However, export volumes are already decreasing.
In April, the volume of imported Mexican strawberries was 67.68 million pounds, a significant decrease from the 88 million pounds per month imported in January, February and March, indicating that the season’s peak has already passed.
Unfortunately, a possible price increase would no longer benefit Florida growers since in April, their volume was only 9.92 million pounds, while in February and March, it was 101.67 and 73.24 million pounds, respectively, indicating that their season is over.
Sources: Fresh Plaza, USDA